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Quake-proofing SLAC Computing

(Photo - Randy Melen in the server room)
Randy Melen points to the divide between old and new flooring in the Building 50 server room. (Photo by Lauren Schenkman.)

The second floor of Building 50 will be a hive of activity this Saturday. A 20-person team from Scientific Computing and Computing Services will unplug 40 Windows servers, 10 Unix servers and 80 disc arrays, and move them to racks that stand securely on earthquake-proof raised flooring.

The move is part of a larger endeavor to give some of SLAC's vintage buildings a seismic makeover. Up until a few years ago, the hundreds of servers and storage disks in Building 50 rested on raised flooring supported by pedestals that had been simply glued into place—not up-to-date with current seismic codes. For the last five years, SCCS has been reshuffling a few server racks at a time so that contractors could tear up the outdated tiles and install new, earthquake-safe pedestals and tiles.

Now the racks will stand on special two-level seismic isolation platforms. Any seismic shocks will cause the lower platform to move with the building while the upper platform supporting computing equipment stays in place. Additionally, the SCCS team will clear out a snake's nest of cables that used to clog airflow under the flooring, making it harder to keep the servers cool. In the new setup, power and network lines will run overhead in neat, brightly-colored rivers of cabling.

Four out of six sections of the floor have already been cleared and revamped unobtrusively. But the fifth section is occupied by the servers that house many central Windows services.

"This has been ongoing, where we've been moving computers from one place in the room to another, but we've done it after hours and have made arrangements with individual users," said Randy Melen, acting manager for Core Services and team leader for High Performance Storage and Computing. "This will be more complicated. We're moving a lot of key servers."

Starting at 8:00 a.m. Saturday, SCCS will be making a herculean effort to relocate the servers and get the three most important services—email, SharePoint, and as much of central file storage as they can—back online by 8:00 p.m. Other affected services, such as backup/restore, Windows patching, streaming media, SolidEdge, System Center Configuration Manager and System Operations Manager, may not be available until 8:00 p.m. Sunday.

"It's more than SCCS has ever moved on a weekend," said Teresa Downey, manager of Enterprise Applications. "Everyone will be trying to get into the same space to rack up the servers and plug them in to network and power. It'll be organized chaos."

—Lauren Schenkman
SLAC Today, February 20, 2009